[Tinkerphones] Happy New Year + Report

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Sat Jan 5 19:11:50 CET 2019


On Tuesday 1. January 2019 13.49.11 H.  Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
> Dear all,
> first of all let me wich everyone a happy new year and say thank you that
> you are still subscribed to this list.

Happy New Year to you and to my fellow subscribers, too!

> There haven't been many news in 2018, but there have been activites behind
> the scenes that layed the foundation for plans for 2019 which you might
> find interesting.
> 
> So let me start with the LetuxOS.
> 
> LetuxOS is constantly developing, mainly in the kernel which has reached
> letux-4.20 release. And we are likely get 4.21-rc1 next week.
> 
> A lot of work has been done last year, mainly by Andreas Kemndade, to
> upstream more parts of our private feature branches, so that even a
> mainline kernel does useful things on the GTA04. Well, it is missing some
> of the polishing done by our LetuxOS additions, but generally having the
> core upstream helps everyone.

I will admit that I stopped following the Letux kernel list, but I recognise 
that upstreaming contributions is time-consuming and frustrating work for 
which people should be thankful, particularly those lucky people who will 
hopefully be getting their Pyra fairly soon.

Once again, I feel a bit guilty about not continuing to work on the Letux 400 
Linux kernel, but there are diminishing returns in doing so. And as I 
undoubtedly mentioned before, it was more rewarding to experiment with 
alternative solutions on that hardware instead:

"Extending L4Re/Fiasco.OC to the Letux 400 Notebook Computer"
https://blogs.fsfe.org/pboddie/?p=2175

[...]

> This is a lot of news from the software side, but what is going on with
> hardware?
> 
> I am currently working in my limited spare time on a project which is called
> GTA15/PyraPhone.
> 
> It is just taking the Pyra hardware design, removing the keyboard and nub
> and the display hinge and cable, changing the battery, adding some phone
> features (earpiece) and Kill-Switches, but keeping everything else and make
> a new PCB layout in a smartphone portrait format.

It looks like it keeps the "Letux Cortex 15" CPU board used in the Pyra and 
employs a more appropriate "mainboard". This reminds me of the modularity use-
case for the EOMA68 initiative where the more expensive and more complicated 
CPU board can be re-used in a number of different applications, with the 
adapter boards hopefully being less expensive and less demanding to produce. 
(We shall see how far the EOMA68 initiative gets in the next couple of 
months.)

> Features will therefore be:
> * 5 inch resistive touch display with 720x1280
> * µHDMI out
> * ca. 2000-6000 mAh battery
> * 2 external µSD slots + one internal
> * 2G/3G/4G + GPS/GLONASS
> * 2 USB2 host ports (full size - one prepared for USB3)
> * µUSB3-OTG port
> * charger&FTDI console through µUSB2 port
> * 3.5mm headset jack with auto-polarity detection and remote keypad option
> * WLAN/BT (maybe with a RedPine module because it does not need a BLOB but
> has to be checked)
> * independent hardware Kill-switches for WWAN, WLAN, BT, Microphone,
> Sensors, and more
> * Processor board from Pyra, i.e. currently OMAP5 with 2/4GB RAM, eMMC - but
> maybe a compatible i.MX8M board can be developed
> * expansion connector (compatible to GTA04A5) for hackers to develop
> extensions

I guess that there is still a certain amount of similarity with Neo900 
"STEP2", overlooking the matter of the keyboard. It seems that Joerg is open 
to an evolution of the Neo900 away from strict N900 compatibility to being 
able to use hardware that supports Maemo-Leste, such as the OMAP5 used in the 
Pyra, at least from my understanding of IRC channel discussions.

> Before you start to think that this project is vapourware like many others
> with similar goals but nicer marketing (web pages, public relations,
> political goals), I have attached some documents. The first one is a
> prototype without any electrical function, but shows the concept. The
> second is the current draft status of (improved but still not perfect and
> finished) component placement.
> 
> When will it be finished? I have to admit that I don't know. The mechanical
> demonstrator was already built in Feb 2017 and only now I have continued to
> work on the PCB design, because I have to run this as a hobby project now.
> Financing such projects in a way that they get tangible results has become
> more and more difficult.

I would really like to see Free Software organisations doing more to promote 
(and fund) initiatives like this. There seems to be a lot of complaining about 
how phones are not free, that proprietary software and services are taking 
over, and yet the obvious step of ensuring that there is a foundation for Free 
Software seems to elude many Free Software advocates.

So we keep having people working around the limitations of existing devices, 
with reverse engineering forming an unjustifiably large component of any kind 
of strategy (if we can really perceive a strategy at all). This leaves the 
FSF's Christmas shopping list still recommending an old Samsung phone, 
presumably refurbished or rescued from post-retail distribution channels, year 
after year after year.

> Anyways, if you are interested in helping to speed up the GTA15 development,
> there is a way:
> 
> 	http://shop.goldelico.com/wiki.php?page=Product&product=9601
> 
> And if there is really enough interest in a finished product, we can
> organise to build some units - after the design is finished. If you are,
> please also spread the word that this project exists.

What kind of physical housing will this end up having? I recall that GTA04 
required an original or 3D-printed FreeRunner case, and having seen Michael's 
extensive efforts in getting the Pyra's case to an acceptable standard, I 
worry that this might be a problem for this project, too. But hopefully there 
is expertise and experience that can now be shared about such things.

Indeed, this is what I would wish for in the new year: that people and 
projects work together a bit more, even if it is just to prevent people 
struggling with a problem that someone else already fixed for their own 
project. And that maybe compromises can be made so that instead of people 
starting new projects with minimal differentiation from existing ones, often 
due to some disagreement on some subjective criteria, they might figure out 
how to work together under the same umbrella and produce a result that 
everyone is broadly happy about.

Happy New Year!

Paul


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